Creating Stress : The Creation (and Destruction) of Your Stressful Story
“People want you to be happy. Don’t keep serving them your pain!”
How We Create Stress
You may have noticed that the articles I write are not the usual advice offered under the heading “self-help.” The term “self-help” has become, in general, a collection of works that often seem to keep people stuck in their negative experiences. While these books, CDs, and talk shows often help people realize they have legitimate issues that need attention, many people are not shown the steps needed to move from issue-identification to issue-integration. This article was written to provide those instructions for moving to the next step.
The first step is to examine your important relationships (family, friends and close co-workers) and determine the reason these relationships were formed in the first place. If the sharing of wounded history and unhappiness from the past (or present) is the basis for the key relationship, then almost every conversation is one of where pain and stressful thoughts take center stage. These bonds are formed with an unspoken (and perhaps unconscious) agreement: we will support each other in our pain and keep that pain relevant.
When one person attempts a remedy or starts to take steps to heal, the relationship may end. The basis of the friendship or romance was one of “make me right about my victimhood” and when one party no longer wishes to focus their attention in that direction, the other can feel betrayed and the relationship ends. This makes healing and thinking differently about stress very hard for many of us. Our key support systems “don’t want to play with us” when we start to change the tone and meaning of our experiences. But change you must, to enjoy what you do for a living, and to take lifelong care of yourself.
The second step is to find the purpose for the painful episode. It may seem like there isn’t one, but if you are reading this, then you survived and you are possibly on your way to thriving. What about “The Experience” (capitals intentional!) has formed you, forced change like trying therapy; or the reading of a key book you would have otherwise not read; discussions with others that helped you cope at a higher level? You had to get through this time and continue to live your life. How did you manage this and what is BETTER for the situation having happened? Are you more protective of yourself? Did you change your lifestyle in any way? Have you helped others in similar dilemmas? Did your faith deepen or even come to be because of this situation?
The third step is to speak from that higher purpose and encourage others to redefine their past. The past should be discussed as the road from where they traveled to arrive to today. When involving yourself in conversations that become re-runs of people’s painful history, turn the conversation toward the clarification of how they are now better people for having survived (because they surely are).
In ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Dr. Victor Frankl writes, “In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.” Help people find the meaning in their suffering. Base your relationships on this type of knowing and intimacy---not helping people stay stuck in their stories. Just in making this small adjustment to the way you help people process their days, their weeks or their conflicts, you are providing meaning to your own painful past.
Unhappiness and stress are really just resistance to what is happening or what has happened in the past. Our stories are explanations of our undeserved pain. But in the very word ‘undeserved’ we create a victim mindset and resist what was. We can create a different meaning and ultimately meet life head-on. We create instead a life based in gratitude for what happened, because these events are what shaped us into the individuals we are now.
A wonderful source for coaching (or just reading her powerful blog), is Mary Jo Koehler from My-Sunroom-Webs.Com. Mary Jo will show you WHAT your stressful story is about, WHY you are telling that story and HOW to see this story in a whole new way.